Renée Elise Goldsberry on ‘Girls5eva’ Season 2
Growing up, the now Tony-award winning actor Renée Elise Goldsberry often wondered how someone got discovered. It was at grocery stores that she thought about whether it might be possible to be noticed. “It was one of those things that crossed my mind and then I forgot about it,” Goldsberry tells TIME. “But Wickie has never forgotten. Whether she’s at the restaurant or the recording studio, she’s always prepared for somebody to notice her and give her a bigger shot.”
Goldsberry is referring to Wickie Roy, the outrageous scene-stealing character she plays in Peacock’s Girls5eva. The show, which premiered last year, also stars Sara Bareilles, Busy Philipps, and Paula Pell as members of a ‘90s girl group that reunites in the present day. Filled with clever songs (see: “New York Lonely Boy”) and rapid fire jokes (the series was created by Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Meredith Scardino, alumna and made by Tina Fey). Girls5eva Follow the laughs and genuine feelings of four women who truly care about each other.
Wickie is the group’s center: a diva with killer fashion sense who never gave up on the dream that she would be famous. Wickie, along with the other members of the band, spent most of season 1 persuading her bandmates to believe in their dream. Season 2 will arrive on May 5th. Goldsberry is a Broadway veteran, who played the part of Angelica Schuyler. Hamilton and plans to release her own album this year, spoke to TIME about working on the show, what she’s learned from playing such an eccentric character, and why it’s important to never say no to yourself.
TIME: What excites you most about Wickie’s character development in season 2?
Wickie has been the engine behind Girls5eva’s comeback and season two starts with the group having momentum without her, which gives her a slight bit of room to figure out some other areas of her life. It’s interesting to see her tiptoe into a personal life and something outside of “hashtag album mode.”
She’s pretty self-centered and ridiculous, but you still want to root for her. Is there a way to find her humanity?
It is hard to feel like a dream may not come true, or as though you missed an opportunity because you were bad. Wickie may not be aware of a lot but is well aware that her mistakes cost her her career. This is something we can all relate to. Wickie has had a very difficult life.
What’s the most rewarding part of portraying her?
You can let so many of your bad instincts fly and not have to take them down. There’s a part of everybody that wants to push to be in the center of a picture. Wickie can be as large, as stylish, and as ambitious as she wants. I like some aspects of her personality.
She’s really driven by a hunger to succeed. Can you identify with that?
Absolutely—it’s pretty beautiful and one of my favorite things about this show. I don’t know that women know that they’re allowed to be ambitious as they get older especially when they are facing all kinds of societal pressures that make it seem inappropriate to dream. But these women are doing it—that’s why you root for them in all of their craziness.
The stars of Girls5Eva, Busy Philipps, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sara Bareilles, and Paula Pell, at SXSW.
NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images—TM and © 2022 Peacock TV LLC. All Rights Reserved
How did you learn about the importance of ambition while working on this show?
I’m extremely ambitious, but actually find my greatest peace when I’m at home. I haven’t necessarily found peace in my life without some combination of trying to move my professional life forward and my personal life forward. I’ve made a choice to prioritize my personal life, but, fortunately, I haven’t yet had to choose one or the other. Wickie has not allowed herself that—it’s only ever been professional. It’s one of the things that I love about playing her. There are some lessons I’ve learned in my life that she has an opportunity to learn and she desperately needs to. She also knows some things I should learn. Another is my ability to be more imaginative with my hair. Another is not to be embarrassed of having a huge dream.
In a podcast, you said that dreams can come true when people say them loudly. What has this mantra meant to you in your work?
It is important to surround yourself with positive people and talk to them about your goals. Dreams that are stuck inside can become cancerous and so the first stage towards moving forward in life and actually giving birth to something that’s important to you and necessary for the world is saying it out loud.
Sometimes, it can be very scary to say this out loud. You might be able to help someone express their ambitions or dreams.
What I must tell myself daily is that you should be afraid of what it might cost. The most important thing to declare out loud is your fear. The biggest thing to remember is we don’t have forever, and being paralyzed in fear, which I feel often, feels worse than doing something afraid.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received for dealing with rejection?
Don’t say no to yourself. The most unforgivable rejection is when you don’t give yourself the opportunity because you’re so afraid of the no—if you’ve decided before everyone else why you shouldn’t have it or why you won’t get it. Rejection is part of life. When you look at people that you might think are more successful, it is not because they haven’t been rejected. It’s because they have and they figured out how to keep going. It’s the relationship with rejection that’s different.
Is the audience surprised by the performance?
We have so much fun making it that it just feels right that people would enjoy watching it because they’re watching people have a really good time. They’re watching people desperately in love with each other. It sounds basic, but we’ve shot the show two seasons in a row in a surprising COVID winter and the show has really saved us. That’s what we’ve learned about humanity and what’s so crucial about art— how it helps us survive impossible challenges. Here we are, in the middle of a world that’s becoming increasingly difficult to recognize, laughing.
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